Plural Perspectives

Plural Perspectives
Plurality promotes and powers Perspectives

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Just 10 days apart, two prestigious awards pick Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera English has excelled at the 17th Amnesty International UK Media Awards announced in London on 17th June . The awards recognise excellence in human rights reporting and acknowledge journalism's significant contribution to the UK public's awareness and understanding of human rights issues. In the category of International television and radioAl Jazeera English's entry "The lost tribe - Secret army of the CIA" was declared the winner. The team which contributed in the production of this documentray comprised Eunice Lau, Stephanie Scawen, Tricia Tan and Tony Birtley. View this winning entry

The other two contestants short-listed were:
Assignment: Louisiana burning, BBC World Service - Joanna Mills, Jeremy Skeet, Mike Williams Inside Myanmar - the crackdown, Al Jazeera English - Tony Birtley, Lucy Keating, Marcus Cheek, Badrul Hisham.

Those serving on the Amnesty's panel of judges for entries in the category of International television and radio were Mike Blakemore, Katherine Butler, Tim Marshall, Naresh Puri and Tim Singleton.

It may be recalled that on 10th June 2008, the award for “Best 24 Hour News Program” at the 48th Monte Carlo Television Festival conferred upon Al Jazeera English is not an aberration, but, one in a series of accomplishments scored by a news channel launched only in November 2006. The award recognized Al Jazeera English’s “extensive international reach and efforts to dig deeper to give its international audience a richer understanding of the events that affect their lives.” Al Jazeera English beat entries from BBC News, Sky News, Lisboa TV and the Phoenix Satellite Television Company to take home the award.

Even a cursory glance at AJE’s accomplishments since its launch Al Jazeera English has proved it to be a unique news channel, winning a number of nominations in recognition of its professional quality and technical accomplishments. This also shows AJE’s potential to set new standards in the coming years:

Al Jazeera English's Far East Correspondent Hamish Macdonald won Royal Television Society''s Young Journalist of the Year Award for 2007 while it’s Africa correspondent Haru Mutasa was also among the three nominees.

Al Jazeera English was nominated for news channel of the year in its first year of broadcasting and was up against BBC News 24 and 2006’s winner Sky News. The awards were presented on 20 February 2008 at a ceremony at the London Hilton, hosted by ITV News at Ten’s Julie Etchingham. Over all, Aljazeera English won Royal Television Society Television Journalism Award nominations in the following categories: News - International Afghanistan: Taliban Embed - Al Jazeera English News Hour Al Jazeera English News Channel of the Year Al Jazeera English Young Journalist of the Year Hamish Macdonald - Al Jazeera English News Hour Al Jazeera English Haru Mutasa - Al Jazeera English News Hour Al Jazeera English.

At the 12th Asian Television 2007 Awards, it won the award for Best Single News/Report (Kylie Grey, Orange) Environment Special, and came runners-up for Best news programme Half Hour Bulletin-from Kula Lumpur. Additionally, Al Jazeera English has won three awards at the BDA World Gold Awards. AJE was presented with three Bronze trophies at the 2007 PROMAX & BDA International Conference in New York 14 June 2007 in the categories of Art Direction & Design: Topical Campaign

An even-handed approach to judge a news channel is to look at its demerits and merits. Are there some commentators overwhelmed by an urge to become an executioner before even pretending to be judge and jury? In Aljazeera’s case, many critics with a disposition to dismiss everything new, haste to pass a judgement prior to looking at it sufficiently enough and objectively enough.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Why Burlington Prefers Plurality over Paucity?

The viewers in Burlington pressing for a choice to diverse news channels are in fact the torch bearers for greater access to alternate information sources. Armed with diverse news sources, the American people can crosscheck and verify the government's position to rid themselves of half-truths from the corporate media, which remains a willing accomplice in keeping American viewers continually subjected to "Washington's Culture of Deception."

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" has a chapter titled "Selling the War," where he says the administration repeatedly "shaded the truth." He also stated, "In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage." In what might be the most disturbing statement in the book, McClellan said, "What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

It was McClellan who turned Eric Boehlert author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush" onto research compiled by analyst Andrew Tyndall, who found that almost all the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC, and CBS from September 2002 until February 2003 could be traced back to sources from the White House, the Pentagon, or the State Department. Only 34 stories, or just 8 percent, were of independent origin. The manipulation of information grew to a level where according to Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein Washington had been overtaken by a “permanent campaign culture” with its constant spin, exaggeration and shading of the truth, all in the service of “manipulating the narrative” to partisan advantage.

In his October 2007 Address to the Military Reporters and Editors in Washington Lt. General (Ret) Ricardo S. Sanchez made a very vocal indictment of the media so far where he singled out the following aspects where the American media was failing some crucial challenges:

(1) "The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard of the industry."

(2) "Other major challenges are your willingness to be manipulated by “high level officials” who leak stories and by lawyers who use hyperbole to strengthen their arguments. Your unwillingness to accurately and prominently correct your mistakes and your agenda driven biases contribute to this corrosive environment. All of these challenges combined create a media environment that does a tremendous disservice to America. "

(3) "As a corollary to this deadline driven need to publish “initial impressions or observations” versus objective facts there is an additional challenge for us who are the subject of your reporting. When you assume that you are correct and on the moral high ground on a story because we have not respond to questions you provided is the ultimate arrogance and distortion of ethics."

(4) "As I assess various media entities, some are unquestionably engaged in political propaganda that is uncontrolled."

He went on to remind the journalists that one of their highly respected fellow journalists once told Sanchez that there are some amongst the reporters who “feed from a pig’s trough.”

McCellan saw closely how political news was manipulated for years, while as the commander of coalition forces in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, General Sanchez despite access to all defence intelligence felt that truth was not coming out to the American public. Sanchez's just out book "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" accuses the Bush administration of "the cynical use of war for political gains." His sharp tongued conclusion: "Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were unnecessarily spent, and worse yet, too many of our most precious military resource, our American soldiers, were unnecessarily wounded, maimed, and killed as a result. In my mind, this action by the Bush administration amounts to gross incompetence and dereliction of duty."

When it came to the facts from the Middle East, McClellan explains that Bush "and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war." In effect the administration and the compliant media were engaging in "self-deception."

Those who champion the cause of defending Vermont need to spell out how the American people can assure wider access to competent and qualified perspectives to challenge such practices. Critics of Al Jazeera should list alternates by listing which American channels have risen up to
provide clear cut answers to what's really going on in the Middle East.

Media outlets ought to answer why it hasn't sufficiently probed the cakewalk crowd who promised a casual march to victory in Iraq. How many media activists pressed for accountability of the likes of Ken Adelmen who misled the American media by claiming 'measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America's war on terrorism.' Had American taxpayers an easy access to alternate information sources it wouldn't have taken them four years to question the wisdom of the 'cakewalk' bunch. Instead of making wrong choices and pursuing wrong approaches that are just goose chasing and witch-hunting exercises the US needs to befriend with the ones that capture and portray the facts professionally and far effectively. Now more than ever the US public and its opinions makers need tools that can help them separate the wheat from the chaff not occasionally but on an on-going, round the clock basis.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Marash: Slow, Serious, Contemplative Reporting better than Rolling News

It is quite interesting to compare how much one hears about Dave Marash who's leaving Al Jazeera for writing and teaching pursuits than about CNN's anchor Shihab Rattansi replacing him as a younger face for Aljazeera's news programmes from Washington. Clearly, some commentators accord far more attention to who is leaving the news channel that was launched in November 2006.

Referring to some recent departures, a spokeswoman for Aljazeera has pointed out: "The channel is still opening new offices across the world and still recruiting new staff." The channel's Managing Director for business acquisition and development,Nigel Parsons, she said, believes it was "unrealistic to think that some people would not leave at the end of their two-year contracts".

Dave Marash offered these comments in an article to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"If it's been "market forces" that have kept Al Jazeera/English from an American audience - fears that it would have no audience, or that it would be "terror TV" - it is time to readjust to reality. If it's been political pressure that has kept Al Jazeera/English off America's cable and satellite servers, it's time to reject such literal "know-nothing-ism."

"I recently left Al Jazeera/English because of defects I saw in its attitude toward and coverage of the United States. But I still will watch regularly for its excellent coverage of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Without it, I'd be blind to half the planet. Why would anyone want that? Why do we as a nation, as a viewing audience, permit it: television news that institutionalizes willful ignorance of the world?"

Having now worked for both an American network and an Arab network, this is what Marash told to Newsweek's Daniel Stone how he sees the difference in the coverage between the two:

"I think that anyone who watches some of the in-depth shows [on Al Jazeera] will ask themselves, "Why doesn't American news do stuff like this?" Because they slow down and take a real look at some serious, positive, negative and very characteristically American issues. Nowhere in American TV do you see those kinds of things being address very seriously... I'll be a lifetime viewer. I think they're a terrific network."

Monday, 2 June 2008

Burlington Better Off with Al Jazeera as Commentators call for plurality

Commentators, journalism teachers and media professional are increasingly questioning why the US media space remains in denial of alternate news channels offering a different perspective to American viewers.Will the American viewers realize what they have been missing out in terms of content richness, analytical depth and topics covered by Aljazeera English?

The news channel launched on 15 November 2006, is adored by many worldwide but still abhorred by some in the USA. But the number of those who have had a chance to see it abroad is voicing their surprise over the fact that it is not widely available in the United States. A look at the responses to Roger Cohen's column reflects a overwhelming number of readers favouring wider AJE access to US homes and institutions.

The article, Let’s face the new “core facts”, that appeared in in NYT and IHT can be seen here:

According to author and former executive of USIA, Alvin Snyder, it's a shame AJE isn't being given the chance to compete in the US marketplace. Writing more than two-years ago Snyder anticipated that AJ would be giving Fox, CNN and the others "a run for their money" in America, based on the popularity of its website in the US. This would have taken place if it was given a level playing field to perform and demonstrate its merits and demerits.

At a conference, “Creating Connections: New Partnerships for Understanding in the Middle East,” sponsored by the Vermont Peace Academy, Vermont Council on World Affairs and Norwich University. A participant said: “It’s an intellectual tragedy that the United States has cut itself out of Al Jazeera English’s contribution to [informative] conversation. Everything that’s happened to us in Iraq shows that’s very dangerous. The lesson of Iraq is: Ignorance kills.”

There is a noteworthy article in Asheville Citizen-Times on free expression which refers about those who manipulate opinions about imaginary risks if access to alternate media widens in the USA. See full text at:

A trends analysis of German media, reveals that Al-Jazeera English is now one of the most quoted international media outlets in Germany — “far ahead of CNN and neck-and-neck with the Washington Post,” says Roland Schatz, CEO of the Media Tenor, adding that the Arab media is becoming increasingly influential, largely due to the advent of the Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera, which started an English-language version, from 15 November 2006. When asked if Al-Jazeera English will eventually become a major force in the TV news industry, Schatz responded: ‘‘Knowing about their ambitions and their cash resources, and knowing that they took a lot of BBC journalists, I would say, yes’‘. ‘‘Do you think it will take a couple of years?’‘ the journalist asked ‘‘I would say less,’‘ Schatz said. Media Tenor is the leading media institute in the field of applied agenda-setting research. The company’s detailed analysis of news reports provides insight to major corporations and government agencies, such as the U.S. State Department.

It is also worth to see Delinda C. Hanley’s article “Al Jazeera English: The Brave New Channel They Don’t Want You to See” in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2007

Once David Brancaccio of PBS asked Josh Rushing, formerly a spokesman of the CentCom in Qatar, whether Al-Jazeera is a valuable shaper of public opinion that is too powerful for the US to ignore? Note the response below: "Looking back on it," says Rushing, "Al-Jazeera may be a more important front in the war on terror than Iraq's the largest shaper of Arab opinion and perspective in the world." Full transcript at

Dave Marash who is leaving Al Jazeera for writing and teaching pursuits offered these commentsin his latest article: "If it's been "market forces" that have kept Al Jazeera/English from an American audience - fears that it would have no audience, or that it would be "terror TV" - it is time to readjust to reality. If it's been political pressure that has kept Al Jazeera/English off America's cable and satellite servers, it's time to reject such literal "know-nothing-ism. I recently left Al Jazeera/English because of defects I saw in its attitude toward and coverage of the United States. But I still will watch regularly for its excellent coverage of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Without it, I'd be blind to half the planet. Why would anyone want that? Why do we as a nation, as a viewing audience, permit it: television news that institutionalizes willful ignorance of the world?"

The strongest criticism about the heads-in-sand policy has been voiced by someone who in his 25-plus year journalistic career has worked for United Press International Radio, the Associated Press Radio Network, US Radio Network, CBS Radio News, and NBC News Radio. Read Brad Gibson’ article “Stupidity Robs U.S. of Good, Fair Journalism” at